Nehru - Toward Freedom (1936).pdf

Sometimes in those early days of 1932 i almost feared

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Sometimes in those early days of 1932 I almost feared a quick and spectacular success, for this seemed to lead inevitably to a compromise leaving the "Governmentarians" and opportunists at the top. The experience of 1931 had been revealing. Success to be worth while should come when the people generally were strong enough and clear enough in their ideas to take advantage of it. Otherwise the masses would fight and sacrifice, and, at the psychological moment, others would step in gracefully and gather the spoils. There was grave danger of this, because in the Congress itself there was a great deal of loose thinking and no clear ideas as to what system of government or society we were driving at. It was not merely a question of civil dis obedience being countered and suppressed by the Government, but of all political life and public activity being stopped, and hardly a voice was raised against this. Those who usually stood for these liberties were involved in the struggle itself, and they took the penalties for refusing to submit to the State's coercion. Others were cowed into abject submission and hardly raised their voices in criticism. Mild criti cism, when it was indulged in, was apologetic in tone and invariably accompanied by strong denunciation of the Congress and those who were carrying on the struggle. The Indian Liberals claim to some extent to carry on the traditions 1 "Harijan" is Gandhi's term for the depressed classes. Ed. 224
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of British Liberalism (although they have nothing in common with them except the name) and might have been expected to put up some intellectual opposition to the suppression o civil liberties. But they played no such part. It was not for them to say with Voltaire: "I dis agree absolutely with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." It is not perhaps fair to blame them for this, for they have never stood out as the champions of democracy or liberty, and they had to face a situation in which a loose word might have got them into trouble. It is more pertinent to observe the reactions of those ancient lovers of liberty, the British Liberals, and the new socialists of the British Labour party to repression in India. They managed to con template the Indian scene with a certain measure of equanimity, pain ful as it was, and sometimes their satisfaction at the success of the "scientific application of repression," as a correspondent of the Man chester Guardian put it, was evident. When the National Government of Great Britain has sought to pass a sedition bill, a great deal of criti cism has been directed to it, especially from Liberals and Labourites on the ground, inter alia, that it restricts free speech and gives magis trates the right of issuing warrants for searches.
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